Monday, May 23, 2016

Those lousy Brooklyn Nets TV ratings, and the diminishing cultural role of sports

In his 5/16/16 New Yorker essay, Show Them the Money: Is the sports business a bubble?, Louis Menand addresses Matthew Futterman’s new book, Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution, offering an acid observation:
For everyone knows what the social role of sports is today. It is, via commercials and endorsements, to sell stuff. And everyone knows what makes that possible: television. It did not require a revolutionary genius to figure this out.
And Futterman thinks that the business of sports is in trouble, partly because the role of stars can deform the game and every sport but football has a small audience, writes Menand:
It’s true that hundreds of millions of people watch special events like the World Cup and the Olympics, but the day-to-day audience for sports is tiny. In the United States, it amounts to about four per cent of households. Fewer than three per cent on average watch their local N.B.A. games; fewer than two per cent watch their home-town N.H.L. teams.
That's interesting, and suggests--as Brooklynites know--that the cultural presence of their "home team" is not particularly strong.

And the potential unbundling of cable bills--which charge people 20% for sports, well beyond their audience--could mean doom.

The Nets in context

Which points us to the 4/25/16 Sports Business Daily article that described the first time in at least ten years that three National Basketball Association teams had ratings above 8% of households: the Golden State Warriors had a 9.76 rating (243,000 homes), the Cleveland Cavaliers had 9.31, and the Antonio Spurs 8.71 rating.

In those smaller cities, the combination of excellent teams and a smaller universe of things to do makes for higher ratings. (In big-city Chicago, which typically supports the Bulls, the rating is 2.96, a drop after a tough season.)

The Brooklyn Nets games on YES Network? For second straight year, and the seventh in nine years, the Nets were at the bottom, this season averaging 0.46, or 34,000 homes--pretty much double the arena capacity.

Yes, the New York Knicks were only at 1.98 of households, which suggests the size of the New York market. But that's more than four times the Nets.

So the Nets have not exactly taken hold. In 2014, the NBA signed a lucrative national TV deal. Will the tide be turning?

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